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3 Observations: Vikings Defense Stingy in 3rd-Down Session

EAGAN, Minn. — The Vikings held their penultimate open practice of Verizon Vikings Training Camp on Thursday.

Minnesota practiced for almost two hours in full pads at Twin Cities Orthopedics Performance Center, getting back to work after a day off on Wednesday.

The Vikings will have their final open training camp practice Friday and will host Seattle in a preseason game at 7 p.m. (CT) Sunday at U.S. Bank Stadium.

Of the 87 players who do not have a Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) or Non-Football Injury (NFI) designation, tackles Brian O'Neill and Aviante Collins and defensive end Ade Aruna did not practice. Linval Joseph did not participate in team periods.

Here are three observations from Thursday's session:

1. A stingy unit

Minnesota's defense has been the league's top unit on third down over the past two seasons, as the Vikings have ranked first in third-down percentage over that time.

That success was on display among all three units on Thursday, as the Vikings defense had the upper hand in a team session on the critical down, winning eight of the 12 plays.

Minnesota's first-team defense split the four reps with the first-team offense. The defense won the first two plays as Harrison Smith likely would have had a tackle for loss before Stephen Weatherly batted down a Kirk Cousins pass.

But the quarterback responded with back-to-back conversions on passes to Chad Beebe, the latter of which went for 30-plus yards down the right sideline.

Jordan Taylor and Bisi Johnson caught third-down conversions from Sean Mannion with the second unit, but Mannion was also incomplete before Marcus Epps likely would have had a sack on the quarterback.

Minnesota's third-team defense was then successful on four consecutive reps. Nate Meadors had a pass breakup before the unit stuffed a rushing attempt short of the sticks.

Jake Browning likely would have been sacked on the final play of the session.

2. Vedvik, Wile get plenty of work

Dan Bailey was 7-for-7 in Tuesday's practice, his first perfect day of camp.

New specialist Kaare Vedvik had his turn with field goals Thursday, as the former Raven made five of six attempts.

Beebe held for the first three tries as Vedvik was good from 33 and 37 yards before pushing his 40-yarder wide to the right.

Punter Matt Wile held for Vedvik for his final three attempts later in a team session. Vedvik was true from 40, 44 and 47 yards to cap off a successful day.

Wile also got plenty of work at punter at the end of practice, two days after Vedvik handled those duties in practice.

Wile uncorked numerous long punts, including at least four that traveled 65-plus yards to a waiting Beebe.

He then worked on shorter punts near midfield, with three of four of them going for touchbacks. Wile ended on a high note as Jeff Badet caught his final attempt inside the 10-yard line on the final play of practice.

3. Joseph looks strong, Watts get 1st-team reps

As mentioned above, Joseph did not participate in team periods, as has yet to do so in camp.

But the defensive tackle looked impressive in position drills, especially when he worked against a double team by fellow linemen Shamar Stephen and Curtis Cothran.

With Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer standing nearby, Joseph earned the praise of Vikings defensive line coach Andre Patterson after showing his power and agility in the drill that focused on stopping the run.

After he was done, Zimmer and Joseph had a conversation that began with the coach giving the player a pat on the backside.

Armon Watts then took Joseph's place against the double team, and also fared well to the delight of Patterson.

Watts, a sixth-round pick, took the first-team reps next to Stephen during team drills.